UFC Personal Trainer: The Ultimate Fitness System Review (Xbox360)

The fitness game market on the Xbox 360 – specifically where Kinect is concerned – is a pretty damn crowded one. Ubisoft’s Your Shape led the charge, but was soon followed by licensed games featuring Mel B and weight-shedding reality TV show the biggest loser – and now the UFC, argued by many as Wrestling’s more real and Boxing’s more exciting brother, has a fitness game all of its own.

It seems like a match made in heaven – the 360 is full of dudebros who love to cave in noses and grapple in the UFC series of fighting games, so offering them a chance to combine getting fit with their desire to be a proper fighter seems like a gap in the market, quite separate from the ‘moms and girlfriends’ market things like Your Shape have been aimed at.

Practice punches in the Octagon

The first time you sling the game into your 360 you’ll have to perform a little exercise that tests out your overall fitness as well as enter your vital statistics. This test will then help the game to advise you on what to do with yourself, but the choice is always ultimately yours.

While the game doesn’t ship with a resistance band or weights like some other games, the option is there to use them in conjunction with the game if you pick them up from elsewhere. The exercises in the game range from being based around fighting moves to more traditional exercises.

At a base level you can choose between three different real-life trainers all of whom have a good number of different routines that tackle areas they feel are important. There’s some overlap between routines but there’s also a lot of all-original stuff for each trainer. Past what the trainers have selected, all the routines can also be used to build one of your own from the ground up, which is what I think most people will choose to do.

If you’re looking for a longer-term plan to get more fit the game features full-blown exercise plans that can last one or two months. These are designed to be a little like Wii Fit, the game that started this craze – they keep track of you on a daily basis and build up overall, detailed statistics on your performance that in turn can colour future decisions on what tasks to undertake.

I can see this being really useful if you’re serious about this game as a fitness tool, and it allows you to focus on different specific areas such as weight loss or endurance, allowing you to be a little more pinpoint precise in what you want from your fitness regime.

Slam punch bags and go for the high score

On paper UFC Personal Trainer sounds absolutely superb. The developers combined scientific knowledge with advice from some of the top talent in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, leveraging the UFC name to get people involved who usually wouldn’t touch a game like this.

Sadly the team at THQ have fallen in some ways at the first hurdle in enlisting this talent – they’re so star-struck by these trainers behind the top guys in the UFC that they’ve pulled them into a voice booth to record – and these guys aren’t voice actors. Repetitive dialogue is delivered stiffly, and you can’t help but wonder if it would’ve been better to just use their training techniques delivered by a non-named character.

That’s not all that’s bad, sadly. The game struggled with tracking me on-and-off which isn’t ideal when it’s meant to be tracking calories lost and these issues become even worse whenever the game asks you to drop to the ground.

The game is definitely one of the better looking fitness games out there, an advantage of presumably sharing some technology and assets with the more gamey UFC offerings that THQ has available – but other areas of the presentation of the game left me wanting. Some character models do seem a little off, but the vast majority look good – and they’re not the focus in this game anyway.

The menu systems also have that trademark Kinect fiddly aspect, once again underlining a clear need for a unified Kinect menu system. The developers were thoughtful enough to throw in voice control, which is excellent when it works but left me having to repeat myself so often I tended to avoid using it.

There’s token online features which allow you to challenge people on your friends list to beat your high score in certain modes, but I can’t see this stuff having much traction at all – after all, this is at its core more of a tool for fitness than a video game.

Stare into the frighteningly dead eyes of your trainer

There’s a lack of interaction to UFC Personal Trainer that makes me wonder about the ‘Personal’ part of the title – despite the ability to customize some aspects, I’m not entirely sure what’s so personal about this experience – it’s a collection of exercises for you to try, but it fails to personalise its output in the way other fitness games out there do.

The fitness exercises on the game are overall pretty good – they range from easy to ones that I think the average non-gym going person will find difficult, and as such UFC Personal Trainer would make a fine introduction into the world of fitness – it’s just a shame that the surrounding shell of the software is so lacklustre.

Top Game Moment: When voice control works. Still feels like Star Trek for a few, fleeting moments.